Michigan State has officially fired head football coach Mel Tucker.
The school informed Tucker on Wednesday that he had been fired for cause. The letter telling Tucker that he had been fired came after the school informed Tucker a week ago of its intention to remove him from his job and allowed him the opportunity to respond as per the terms of his contract.
Tucker was suspended without pay earlier in September after multiple reports emerged that he had sexually harassed anti-rape activist Brenda Tracy while she was employed as a vendor with the school. Tracy is a rape survivor who works with football teams across the country regarding sexual assault education.
Tucker has contended that he had a consensual relationship with Tracy and has admitted to masturbating while on the phone with her — an act that he claims was consensual phone sex. In a letter to Michigan State on Monday, Tucker’s attorneys said Tucker “did not engage in unprofessional or unethical behavior or ‘moral turpitude’ by any stretch of the imagination.”
Michigan State, however, disagreed. And Tucker’s response didn’t sway the school.
"Simply put, the response does not provide any information that refutes or undermines the multiple grounds for termination for cause set forth in the notice," Wednesday's letter from athletic director Alan Haller said. "Instead, the 25-page response, which includes a 12-page letter from your attorney and a 13-page 'expert report,' provides a litany of excuses for your inappropriate behavior while expressly admitting to the problematic conduct outlined in the notice."
Tucker's contract with the school had a clause that allowed Michigan State to fire him with cause if he had demonstrated "conduct which constitutes moral turpitude" or conduct that "brought public disrespect, contempt or ridicule upon the university." He previously said that he was "not surprised" that the school was seeking to fire him for cause and claimed in a statement a week ago that Tracy had "manufactured false allegations" against him.
The school cited the public disrespect clause in its letter Wednesday and said Tucker had brought disrepute to the school with his conduct on the phone with Tracy in April 2022.
"As the university previously stated, 'it is decided unprofessional and unethical to flirt, make sexual comments, and masturbate while on the phone with a university vendor," Haller's letter said. "Your unconvincing rationalizations and misguided attempts to shift responsibility cannot and do not excuse your own behavior. Had you not engaged in this inappropriate and unprofessional conduct, the university would not be subject to public disrespect and ridicule regarding your actions."
By firing Tucker for cause, the school isn’t legally obligated to pay him the over $75 million remaining on the 10-year, $95 million deal Tucker signed after the 2021 season. Tucker, however, is likely to continue to contest the terms of his firing in court in an attempt to gain at least a part of what remained on his deal.
Michigan State was 19-14 in Tucker’s time with the school and 11 of those wins came during the 2021 season. That year included wins over Michigan and Penn State and Tucker’s ensuing contract made him one of the highest-paid coaches in college football.
The Spartans went 5-7 in 2022 and missed a bowl game. After quarterback Payton Thorne (Auburn) and wide receiver Keon Coleman (Florida State) transferred during the spring, Michigan State opened the 2023 season 2-0 with wins over Central Michigan and Richmond before Tucker was suspended. The Spartans are have gone 0-2 under interim coach Harlon Barnett.